The First Time
For the Founding Fathers assembling in Philadelphia May 25, 1787, it was a frightening experience. The entire American experiment was falling to pieces!
The unity that existed during the Revolutionary War had disappeared
* There was a deep depression with runaway inflation and rioting in some places
* The states were quarreling over boundaries in the west and fishing rights in the east
* The states actually treated one another as foreign countries, charging customs on imports and exports
* Spain was threatening to seize territory along the Mississippi River
* England would not remove her troops from the northern border of the United States
* Such hostility had developed between the states that New England was threatening to secede from the Union!
* It was obvious the Articles of Confederation were a failure and the central government was completely incapable of dealing with all these crises.
The whole civilized world was watching to see if the men assembled in Philadelphia could save the dis-United States. To build organization, peace, and unity from such chaos by sitting down and reasoning out a plan of government – such a thing had never occurred in the history of the world. Order had always been restored through military takeover and a dictator would then be in control.
The Constitutional Convention Nearly Ends in Ruin
After several frustrating attempts to get the states to send delegates, twelve states did send their delegates to Philadelphia in May of 1787. However, the convention quickly deteriorated into near chaos. Everyone seemed to have a plan and no one was willing to listen to others in a rational way. The bickering and arguing continued until July 16th when some finally went home. It looked like another lost effort. It was during this dark period that Washington wrote: “I almost despair of seeing a favorable issue to the proceedings of the Convention, and do therefore repent having had any agency in the business.” Even the great General was discouraged. Observers said he looked as grim as when he was at Valley Forge.
Benjamin Franklin had tried to get the delegates to have prayer every day in the convention, but there were just not enough spiritual giants to take his suggestion seriously enough and make it work.
Something Miraculous Happened at the End of the Convention
As the new system began to take form, many of the Founders realized they had performed this labor beyond their own natural strength. Something had happened near the end of the convention which turned chaos into unity. They saw elements of divine inspiration which led them to call it a “miracle”.
Madison wrote to Jefferson that it was “impossible to consider the degree of concord which ultimately prevailed as less than a miracle.”
Charles Pinckney declared: “When the great work was done and published, I was… struck with amazement. Nothing less than that superintending hand of Providence, that so miraculously carried us through the war…could have brought it about so complete, upon the whole.”
Alexander Hamilton said: “For my part, I sincerely esteem it a system which, without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.”
George Washington, the man who more than once despaired whether the convention would survive, finally saw the delegates close ranks and reach an intelligent consensus. He wrote later: “I can never trace the …causes which led to these events without…admiring the goodness of Providence. To the superintending Power alone is our retraction from the brink of ruin to be attributed. A spirit of accommodation was happily infused into the leading characters of the continent, and the minds of men were gradually prepared…for the reception of a good government.”
Benjamin Franklin said of the Constitution: “I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing, and to exist in the posterity of a great nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in whom all inferior spirits live and move and have their being.”
When they finally put the new charter into operation, George Washington was able to write after only two years:
“The United States enjoy a scene of prosperity and tranquility under the new government that could hardly have been hoped for.”1
The next day he wrote to David Humphreys:
“Tranquility reigns among the people with that disposition towards the general government which is likely to preserve it…. Our public credit stands on that [high] ground which three years ago it would have been considered as a species of madness to have foretold.”2
Not only did it change the United States, but within a few years it aroused the admiration of the whole world.
The Second Time
It was only about 50 years after the writing of the Constitution that a young twenty-six year-old Abraham Lincoln, then a member of the Illinois General Assembly, raised a warning voice about a trend he observed by those who would sidetrack America’s great experiment of freedom.
Gratitude to the Founders for the Gift of Liberty
In a speech to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, entitled, The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions, Lincoln declared:
“We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them—they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves, us, of this goodly land; and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys, a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; ’tis ours only, to transmit these, the former, unprofaned by the foot of an invader; the latter, undecayed by the lapse of time, and untorn by usurpation—to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.”
From where should we expect the Approach of Danger?
In our comfortable circumstances, he asked if we should ever again be in danger of losing our freedom:
“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a Trial of a thousand years.
“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
Lincoln then observes, “…there is, even now, something of ill-omen amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country….”
Freedom may slip away while citizens aren’t watchful
“I know the American People are much attached to their Government; — I know they would suffer much for its sake; — I know they would endure evils long and patiently, before they would ever think of exchanging it for another. Yet, notwithstanding all this, if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property, are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from the Government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come.”
Let the Constitution become the Political Religion of the Nation
Young Abraham Lincoln then gives the answer which reflects his life’s work until his tragic death:
“The question recurs ‘how shall we fortify against it? The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well-wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; –let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children’s liberty. Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap –let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; –let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; –let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.”
Fortunately, the Constitution provided Abraham Lincoln with the principles needed to later preserve the union from total destruction.
Will the Constitution Save America a Third Time?
Freedom loving Americans agree our country is in another crisis. The Constitution seems to be on the brink of ruin. Media sources have recently identified NCCS as the organization which has distributed more copies of the Constitution than any other group. We are now approaching 16 million distributed over the last few years! Of course, it will take more than merely handing out copies to turn the tide of destruction, but that is the first step. It is amazing that many people who receive a copy will read it, even out of curiosity, some for the first time in their lives!
We ask you to be looking for our announcement next month when we will launch a program to distribute 100 million copies of the Constitution.
We look forward to having your assistance in, again, preserving America.
Earl Taylor, Jr.